Handmade Gifts, Part 2 (still patting myself on the back)

Ok, so I’m  s l o w l y  returning to the blogging thing, post-holiday, and due to the fact that I kind of checked out last week, that means I have a load of holiday-related things to share with you (still)!

I know, Christmas is over.  Move on.

But I can’t let go — yet.  I even thought I could justify it and say that I was still within the realm of the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” even though I don’t really acknowledge or celebrate that. (What am I talking about?  Ask Wikipedia.)

However, Twelfth Night was January 5th, so now it’s just getting tacky.  Whatever.   I decided to embrace the tacky, and go ahead and do a little show-and-tell of the other handmade gifts in my life, this time the ones that Josh and I received (you may remember the previous post where we talked about the gifts we gave).

First, let’s start with the handmade gifts Josh and I gave each other:

dog silhouettes

Yeah, you’re probably thinking “That’s a lot of dogs.”  Let me explain:  I gave Josh the framed black and white photo, and Josh gave me the two silhouettes, you know, of our dogs.  Yeah, we basically gave each other the same thing.  Creepy, right?  And this was all done unbeknownst to the other (and by the way, we didn’t tell any friends or family who may have spilled it to either of us).  Creepier still, my first plan was to make silhouettes, too.  I planned on using this photo, but we didn’t have any black paper and I didn’t have a lot of time — Christmas Eve gift making, how shameful — so I didn’t follow through with my original plan (little did I know it would look just as good in white!).  So, I spray painted this frame that Josh found at the street on trash day, made a matte out of lime green paper, and framed the photo.

Josh was feeling far more ambitious.  He took two frames (he found these at the street on trash day, also), printed out the same photo on regular printer paper, cut it out, traced it (it ended up being the mirror image side) and then cut that out as well.  He backed it with lime green paper (needless to say, we have an abundance of lime green paper).

When we opened them — which happened to be at the same time — we had a weird case of the Twilight-Zones, and then accused each other of somehow stealing each other’s ideas, perhaps using a magic wand and a Pensieve when the other was sleeping.

Then we realized that was silly and decidedly attributed the coincidence to our compatibility.  Aww….. :)

And our crazy obsession with our dogs.

And maybe the fact that we walk by the Courtney silhouette everyday (this was done when I was like 6).

See it there on the table next to the Eiffel Tower ornament?

Who knows?  But we love them both and look forward to hanging them on our soon-to-be art wall (details in blog post form to follow).

Moving on to some of the handmade gifts we received from family…

My mother-in-law, knowing well of my loves for orange and green, recycling, and handmade gifty-ness, crocheted this reusable tote for me:

hand crocheted grocery bag

I love it!!!  Things like this amaze me to no end, because I have ZERO crocheting/knitting/sewing/anything-domestic-other-than-cooking skills.

My sister-in-law (a loyal GPP subscriber) took part of this blog’s paisley background image and made it into the lid of a magnetic box:

personalized box

Recognize the pattern?  Yeah, I literally squealed when I opened it.  And even better, when I opened the (magnetic) lid, I found a pair of earring that she had made for me!

I asked her where she had the box made, and she said she wouldn’t tell me (it’s a secret she feels she must keep as she has so many gifts made through this company).  However, she did say it was a website that I had mentioned on here before.  Considering that I’ve linked up to hundreds of websites in the 63 posts I’ve written since starting this on September 12, 2011… yeah, I’m sort of scratching my head on this one.

Sigh.  Maybe one day she’ll reveal her mystical secrets…

Amanda, the aforementioned secretive sister-in-law, gave Josh a framed shadow box of the Triforce (from the Zelda games):

triforce art

(Sorry for the overly-reflective picture. this was the best of a dozen attempts, believe me).

Now, I couldn’t be less interested in video games possibly, but even this made me go “OOOHHH!”  The picture doesn’t do it any justice, but in person, it looks gooood (Scouts’ honor).  And little did Amanda know we were slowly accumulating things for our art wall!  Perfectly timed.

The next gift is also one of those funny coincidences because it was something I had planned on blogging about, but hadn’t gotten around to yet.  As a fun way to give us some cash, my mother-in-law made origami with some dollar bills:

snail origami dollar bill

dollar bill rocket ship origami

dollar bill origami swan

dollar bill mens shirt origami

I think they turned out great!  I especially love the men’s shirt origami.  She also made an origami star, but no matter how many different angles I tried, I could not take a picture of it where it actually looked like a star (but it does in person, I promise).

You can find the how-to’s all over the internet; just do a Google search for dollar bill origami (and I recommend ironing your dollar bills on a low setting before starting — they’re made of cotton, they can handle it).

Hope you enjoyed the highlights of some of our handmade gifts!  From here on out, I will try my best to not mention the holidays… at least until… September?!  (I’ve got to do another Twelve Weeks of Christmas series next year, too!)

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You might also enjoy…

Handmade Gifts (Show-and-Tell Part 1)

State String Art

This picture of my dog:

See the little nose poking out from under the cushion?  Yeah she’s pretty weird awesome.

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Twelve Weeks of Christmas, Week 9: Homemade Linen Spray (Febreze alternative)

***To catch up on what you may have missed — the 8 other “Weeks of Christmas” — go here.

Last year, I received a bottle of linen spray as a Christmas gift.  At first, I was dubious.  I mean, a gift like that reeks (get it!?) of just-something-else-I-don’t-need-that’s-going-to-take-up-space-that-I-don’t-have.  However… I soon changed my tune.

Linen spray is awesome!

If you’re like me, you love the effects of Febreze, but you dislike the smell (really, I sorta hate it).  And if you’re like me, you have a serious problem with allowing dogs on the furniture (I try to stop myself, really I do, but they’re just so darn cuddly…).  We-ell… Linen spray is a great solution.  I find myself using it weekly on the couch, the rug, and our bedding.  If we burn bacon or something and there’s a particularly strong smell in the apartment (because you know these NYC apartments don’t have exhaust fans or good ventilation), we follow up with a few sprays of the stuff.

So… when I was thinking of Christmas gift ideas this year, I wanted to sort of pay it forward with this great gift.  (I know, I know… the phrase “pay it forward” is usually reserved for loftier causes like charitable contributions, but I couldn’t think of a better way of describing it… and linen spray really is pretty awesome.)

When I looked up prices for linen sprays, specifically the amazing one that was given to me, I found they were a little more expensive than I expected/could afford.  So, I did the Google thing and found a few recipes, combined my favorite parts of each one, and I think I ended up with a pretty good mix (and it was made from things I already had at home so it was FREE!).

Here’s the finished product:

homemade linen spray

homemade linen spray

And here’s how you make it…

You’ll need:

  • Water
  • Isopropyl alcohol or vodka
  • essential oils
  • a spray bottle
  1. Combine 1 part isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol or vodka to 5 parts water to a spray bottle.  I used an empty Bath and Body Works spray bottle, then removed the label (this took a little time and effort — about one episode of Pan Am — plus acetone, windex, and a lot of scraping).
Before:
Somewhere in between….
(I actually got all of the label off, but then I was so excited, I immediately slapped on the new label without taking another picture.)
2.  Add 20-40 drops of any essential oil (or more, depending on how strong you want it to be).  Essential oils are HIGHLY concentrated, so it really only takes a little, but the actual amount should be at your discretion based on the size of your spray bottle.  Here’s an eBay seller with really great pricing.  (It’s totally affordable when you consider how long one bottle could last.)  For my particular mix, I did about 20 drops of jasmine oil and 20 drops of eucalyptus oil (this is for an 8 oz.-bottle).
3.  Screw the lid back onto the spray bottle, and shake the contents.  This is to emulsify the oil and water, since they naturally separate.
4.  Make a label for the bottle, including pertinent info like “Shake before use.”  Print it off on adhesive paper and attach.
Here’s what my label looked like:
linen spray label

linen spray label

I love damask.

Here’s the document, in case you want to do something similar:  GPP linen spray label

Note:  When attaching the label, you may smudge the ink a bit. To get rid of these smudges, carefully erase them with a pencil eraser.

And here’s the finished product (again):

homemade linen spray

homemade linen spray

And a little bit closer…

diy linen spray

Something that I didn’t note on my label, that may have been smart in retrospect:  The spray will initially give off an alcohol smell when you first spray it.  However, after a few seconds — once it evaporates — this smell is gone and the essential oil fragrance remains.

Now… because I had all of these things lying around my house, I was able to make this project for free.  However, if you don’t have any of these things, it would still be super affordable.  I searched each item and found at found at least one affordable source (listed below):

Spray bottle, Dollar Tree.  Here’s an 8 oz bottle and a 28 oz bottle.   $1

(I also remembered that Dollar Tree sells linen spray for $1 on their website.  However, I have actually used their stuff before and I found it to be very weak.)

Water, your faucet, free

Isopropyl alcohol, any drug store, $0.50-$2.00

Vodka (an alternative to the rubbing alcohol), can be found a variety of places.  Here’s a link to some pricing.  $1-$20

Essential oils, available a variety of places, including eBay, $3.00

Approximate Total: $6… more likely less.

Consider the oils an investment, as they will last a long time and could potentially create dozens of bottles of linen spray.

(And if  “dozens of bottles of linen spray” seems a bit daunting, but you still want to be able use the oil beyond this project, here are some other great uses: here, here,  and here.)

I think this linen spray would be great as a teacher/neighbor gift.  Hope you found this tutorial helpful!

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Other handmade gift ideas:

Vinyl record bowls

Tile Coasters

DIY dry erase boards

Dork for New York: Free Things To Do in NYC, Christmas Edition

Hope everyone had a lovely weekend!  Mine was particularly great as Josh and I had a day off together (whaaa???) and my dad came to visit!  Yeah, I know… I’m still sort of pinching myself.

Am I about to give you a summary of what we did over the weekend?  Yes.

Did I take pictures to document these events?  Uh huh.  

More importantly, were all of these things free (or almost free)?  You betcha!

In fact, with the exception of a couple of cheap meals and the subway fare, it was completely FREE.  So, for those of you scratching your heads wondering how anything enjoyable could be free in Manhattan, here’s the play by play of what we did:

On Friday — the day Josh and I had off together — we decided to be tourists in our own city, so we hopped on the subway to Manhattan to check out the Rockefeller tree and the FABULOUS windows on Fifth Avenue.  First of all, everyone talks about the “windows of Fifth Avenue,” however after doing some research, I realized that only some of the iconic window displays are on Fifth Avenue.  The most notable displays are found at Bloomingdale’s, Barney’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Lord and Taylor, and Bergdorf Goodman.  So, I did the ol’ Google maps things to try to find a good walking path and still catch the tree along the way, and here’s what I came up with:

(If you click on the image, it’ll open to a window with a bigger image.)

A.  Bloomingdale’s

B.  Barney’s

C.  Bergdorf Goodman

D.  Rockefeller Center Tree

E.  Saks Fifth Avenue

F.  Lord and Taylor

G.  Macy’s

All in all, this walking tour is 2.1 miles, but no big deal; we’ve grown accustomed to doing a lot of walking. And since these windows are one of the (free) highlights of Christmas time in NYC, we were all about it.  So, with comfortable shoes on our feet (and multiple layers to minimize the whining I often do when I’m cold), we set out.

First stop:  Bloomingdale’s.  Now, Josh and I have never actually done the whole looking-at-all-the-pretty-windows thing in NYC before, so we didn’t really  know what to expect.  Bloomingdale’s entrance (below) was super pretty (though it looks like this –or a version of this — throughout the year):

Bloomingdale's NYC store front

Bloomingdale's NYC store front

Sparkly.  Oooh….

The theme for their windows was shopping bags from previous years.  Some of the windows were just the images, but three-dimensional.  Others opened like a pop up book, showing an expanded take on the shopping bag images.  Some of the windows even had touch screen cameras so you could tap a star with your hand, and it would take your picture and show it on the screen inside the window.

I didn’t get a picture of those (this was before I got trigger happy with the camera, but trust me they were pretty cool).
Here are two of the “bags” I got pictures of:

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

I’m not sure why I felt compelled to take pictures of just these two over some of the others that were perhaps even better.

Also, one of the windows featured ornaments that had been designed by celebrities, with 100% of the profits going to charity.  Here’s the window from a distance:

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

And here they are up close, so you can actually read the names of the participating celebrities:

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

I’m not sure which one is my favorite, though I have to admit, I don’t really appreciate that each one has the name or initials of the celebrity.  That doesn’t exactly motivate me to buy them.  Hm…

Framing the bag with the ornaments were two jack-in-the-boxes dressed in tuxes and top hats, adorned with festive paraphernalia:

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

Bloomingdale's 2011 window displays

I’m not really sure why these were part of this particular display, but I guess such things are left to be pondered by the artsiest of the fartsiest, and perhaps not me.

All together, Bloomingdale’s was a pretty cool display, but our socks weren’t completely knocked off.

(Don’t worry, we’re not always such a tough crowd; our socks are later knocked off when we see the Bergdorf Goodman windows.  Read on…)

Next stop: Barney’s.

Woof.  And not in a good way.

I can’t even pretend that I liked one iota of the Barney’s display.  I’m all for minimalism and artistic expression, even if it’s vague sometimes.  As a performing artist and the daughter of a (visual) artist, I’m no stranger to such things… but the Barney’s windows looked a lot more like an unfinished… I don’t know what.  Blah.  First of all, here’s the entrance:

Barney's 2011 windows

Barney's 2011 windows

So… certainly interesting.  I read it had something to do with Lady Gaga (so that explains a lot), but this entrance doesn’t exactly inspire Christmas spirit.

(For those of you who have just stumbled here, I am not exactly the traditional red and green Christmas type o’ gal.  However, I need a little more than what Barney’s had to offer.  You’ll see.)

Here are the actual window displays… and P.S.  These are the finished products.  This is not a work in progress:

Barney's 2011 NYC windows

Barney's 2011 NYC windows

Well, the lighting is nice…

Barney's 2011 NYC windows

Barney's 2011 NYC windows

Can you hear me yawning across cyber space?

Barney's 2011 NYC windows

Barney's 2011 NYC windows

It’s like a very unexciting holiday museum.

And in case you’re thinking that I’m holding out on you, that maybe the bigger picture has a bit more excitement… the answer is no.  And just to prove it to you:

Barney's 2011 NYC windows

Barney's 2011 NYC windows

See?  I told you.

So, Barney’s in summary:  Yes, the lighting is stunning.  And any other month of the year I’d be like” That’s nice and simple, I guess”… “Those are pretty vases.”  But these are the holiday windows in NYC!  They’re kind of a big deal, and Barney’s has a history of having great (and usually tongue-in-cheek funny) windows.  We felt a bit let down.  But we soldiered on…

We then walked to Bergdorf Goodman.  Just so happens that right across the street is FAO Schwarz (and no, there is not a “t” in that word, despite my strong convictions otherwise… how did I never notice that before?).  It also just so happens that Josh and I have never been to FAO Schwarz.  Despite the fact that we’re both 26 years old, we decided we needed to remedy this.

Oh boy! Oh boy!  Home Alone 2 and Big don’t even begin to cover it!  Sooo amazing… and we took a lot of pictures.  Perhaps more than anywhere else.  Here’s the view of the main level, looking back at the door:

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

Here’s their candy store, FAO Schweetz:

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

I can’t even fathom the profit they make, considering that A) to exit FAO Schwarz, you must go through the candy store and B) the candy here is $13.49/lb.  What!?!

While in the candy store, Josh found a candy snake.  He had some very strong feelings about it.

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

My cool-ideas-for-home-decor radar never rests, so I had to snap a pic of part of the ceiling in FAO Schweetz:

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

Pretty, right?  Go go gadget Pinterest.

Inside the candy shop, there’s a Make-Your-Own Muppet station (for a mere $99).  I couldn’t not get a picture of their clever lighting:

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

Here’s the actual station where you can get the muppets made:

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

Josh found one of the general muppets for sale and somehow it ended up on his hand.  For the rest of the evening, he repeatedly said “I’m really into this whole ‘make-your-own-muppet’ thing!”  (Not gonna happen, sweetie.)

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

The view from the second level, looking down on the main level:

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

Quidditch supplies?  For real???  Yeah, I nerded out for a minute.

And then… I found a Sorting Hat.

sorting hat

"Pleeeease, Ravenclaw, pleeeaaseeee......"

The finger crossing because I was desperately hoping to be sorted into Ravenclaw (I mean, that’s what the Facebook test told me).

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

I was pleasantly relieved/surprised to see a book section.  And it was pretty…

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly we visited the Big Piano (you know, from the scene in the movie, Big).

The Big Piano

FAO Schwarz

I even returned with my dad the next day and got a video of the “professional piano dancers.”  They were pretty fabulous, and something tells me that they are working/starving actor-singer-dancers like myself :)

Here’s a video of them playing/dancing “Fur Elise” and “Jingle Bells”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nD0ZMjk_yO8

On the way out, we got two more pictures with these incredible Lego creations:

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

Really, ALL legos:

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz

(Josh’s expression is intense on purpose… you know, he’s posing with Lego Indiana Jones.  What do you expect?)

OK, so after that surprise but welcome detour, we returned to our previously scheduled walking tour.  We walked across the street to Bergdorf Goodman.

Without hesitation, Josh and I firmly agreed that their windows were the best by far.  According to Trendland, an online “trend forecasting” magazine, “It may take 2 full weeks to install the elaborate and highly anticipated Holiday Windows of Bergdorf Goodman but it takes David Hoey and the visual team of BG 60% of the years work hours to make this fantasy come to life.”  When you see the pictures (and the incredible detail) you will understand why.

The theme for BG’s windows was “Carnival of the Animals.”  In some cases, it seems they employed a few taxidermists, as there are actual stuffed bear, wolf, and deer heads, to name a few.  Out of context this sounds a bit weird, I’ll admit, but the combination of materials and the actual scenes displayed in each window are fabulous and it’s very effective.  Ok, so here are a few of the men’s windows:

Bergdorf Goodman 2011 Holiday Windows

Bergdorf Goodman 2011 Holiday Windows

Yeah, a real wolf’s head.

Bergdorf Goodman 2011 Holiday Windows

Bergdorf Goodman 2011 Holiday Windows

The word on the window for this one was “Shipshape.”  As you will, some of the pictures are not the entire window.  With the amount of pedestrian traffic on this sidewalk, it was virtually impossible to get all of the windows.  And I had more than a dozen New Yorkers scathingly call me a “Tourist!” (To which I sort of rudely responded, “Nope.  Brooklynite.”)

Bergdorf Goodman 2011 Holiday Windows

Bergdorf Goodman 2011 Holiday Windows

The word on this window is “Trustworthy” and it features a human-sized cat walking six dogs.  The sheer impossibility of this makes me giggle, especially when I picture a cat attempting to walk my dogs (if a cat got that close, it’d be eaten).

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Stuffed bear head in a leather jacket and scarf = Adventurous.  Ok, I’ll buy it.

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

I loved this one!  The word on the window is “Mighty.”

True story:  The woman standing behind me (also trying to get a picture), said VERY loudly “What the hell is that word?  Mig-it-ee?” To which her friend kindly responded “No, that’s mighty.”  Haha.

The word for this window was “Dapper.”  The details in this window got me particularly excited because they hearkened me back to two previous posts.  First of all, the clever use of vintage yardsticks and rulers reminded me of this post.

bergdorf goodman windows holiday 2011

Not to mention the Singer sewing machine which reminded me of my dining room table :)

A bit blurry, but this one was set in a barber shop and the attention to detail was incredible!  There was even a black and white TV that was playing a football game (it was a looped video, I assume).

That’s a singing cardinal, y’all.

And that was all I got of the men’s.  Super clever, slightly weird, and all around amusing.

Across the street were the women’s windows, and they took on a very different tone.

Bergdorf Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Holiday Windows 2011

A giraffe and an equally long-necked lady mannequin.

Bergdorf Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Holiday Windows 2011

The detail on the giraffe was amazing:

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

There was so much going on in this window (below), I found it very difficult getting a good picture.  Needless to say, it was fabulous and looked like a King Midas/Cave of Wonders love fest.

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Girl, you is purdy!

I was especially smitten with the lighting in this one:

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Niiice.

This little diorama window was only about 8″X10″:

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Ok, I saved my favorite for last:

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2011

And guess what?  The sparkliness on all of the sea life is actually mosaic tile!  What!?

(Unfortunately, I did not get a close-up as everyone else loved this window too.)

Of course, there was even more at Bergdorf Goodman, but then my camera…

… died.

Rather, its batteries died.

So, while I did visit the windows of Lord and Taylor and Macy’s, which were lovely, I don’t have any pictures.  Sigh…   However, I can assure you the shining star (in the pretty windows department, that is) was definitely Bergdorf Goodman.

Oh, and of course we couldn’t get back to Brooklyn without checking out the tree, and I do mean the tree.  I got a picture of it, albeit a little blurry and crooked, on my BlackBerry:

See the ridiculous amount of people?  Well, when I went with my dad the next night, it was ten times crazier.  I think if someone had sneezed or tripped and fallen down, there would have a been a very unfortunate domino effect.

So… after 2.1 miles and 87 pictures, we had a splendid time… and then the next night, I took my dad on a similar, but slightly abbreviated walking tour.  Sort of “The Best of…” where we hit FAO Schwarz, the Rockefeller tree, and of course those glorious BG windows.

And how many dollars did all of this festive frivolity cost?  Zero.

(Well, almost.  My dad was somehow suckered into buying a pound of candy at FAO Schweetz, but I did not encourage said endeavor.  But I didn’t exactly discourage it either :)  Yum.)

Here’s to hoping you all have similarly frugal holiday adventures!  Feel free to share them with me, regardless of what city you live in!

:)

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Things that (P)inspire Me

Twelve Weeks of Christmas

Things that (P)inspire Me: (More) Christmas Decor

As we close the week, I also put an end to the madness that has been this Pinterest love fest (but not forever!  Just like… for a few days).  In case you haven’t been following me this week, here’s brief re-cap:

First of all, I love Pinterest.

Secondly, I decorated my apartment the day after Thanksgiving.  I say “I,” but I really mean “we.”  And not the royal “we.” I mean my super cute and SUPER enthusiastic husband helped me:

He's. So. Excited.

To check out the whole thing, go here.

On Tuesday, I waxed poetic (or pathetic… hm…..) about my Pinterest finds in the DIY Christmas Ornaments and Tree Toppers category.

On Wednesday, I talked about DIY Christmas Garlands.

On Thursday, I showed you my DIY Christmas Wreath pins… but mostly, the paper cone kind.  Yeah, I got kind of distracted…

And today’s Friday!  That means everything-else-day!  It will all make sense soon….

Most importantly, these pins are DIY, cost-effective, and SUPER festive!

But… not too festive.  For example:

Yes, that’s an example of too festive (and in case you were wondering, that atrocity is for sale!  Ay yi yi . . .)

So, here are my most recent pins:  DIY, cost-effective, and festive-but-not-too-festive-like-a-Christmas-tree-costume-that-offends-my-eyes.  K?

(Here’s my attempt at good blogger karma:  For the source of the images and ideas, click on the image)

Pinned Image

A little more ambitious than most of these ideas, but lovely nonetheless. And if you get your Christmas ornaments at the dollar store instead of more expensive, glass ones, this could also be super cheap!

Pinned Image

A fun take on a Christmas tree.

Pinned Image

This individual used photos in the shape of a heart, but I think this would be a a great way of displaying your Christmas cards (in the shape of a Christmas tree!)

Pinned Image

Lovely! Pearl beads in water with floating candles above (these are sold on Amazon, usually about $6 for 30-ish pearl beads)

Pinned Image

A tree made out of an old book with a cookie cutter as the tree topper. I feel fairly certain this will be an upcoming crafty excursion for myself. Might be great with an old magazine(s).

Pinned Image

Unique way to display Christmas cards. Looks like 4 sticks (dowels?) of varying lengths attached to a ribbon, with clips on either side.

Pinned Image

I sometimes think shadow boxes can make everything better.

Spray paint some sticks, put them in a bowl or vase, ta da!

Pinned Image

Perhaps I saved the best for last. This is an advent calendar with different surprises for each day leading up to the 25th. It's made out of matchboxes wrapped in paper and placed on a tree. Love!

How do you not love the sight of Christmas ornaments in a bowl? Yeah, that's my picture. I pinned myself. What?!

Here I go again...

I'm always a fan of the seemingly-arbitrary-but-NO-I-really-meant-to-do-that thing. Here's one example.

Hope you enjoyed those!  Have a lovely weekend, and if you start decorating this weekend (it’s December now, so you don’t have to be as embarrassed about it anymore) PLEASE snap some pictures and share with me!  E-mail: thegingerpennypincher@gmail.com

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You might also like…

Things That (P)inspire Me

Twelve Weeks of Christmas (on going series)

DIY Holiday Ornaments and Tree Toppers

DIY Garlands

DIY Wreaths

Another ridiculous Christmas tree costume

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Things that (P)inspire Me: DIY Christmas Wreaths

It’s a Pinterest party up in here this week, and today I want to talk about DIY Christmas Wreaths!

(What’s Pinterest?  Go their website and/or read my spiel about it.  There.  All better now.)

You may remember my wreath from my previous decorating post:

Currently, this is hanging on my bedroom door, but I don’t yet have one for my front door.  The bell wreath was a gift, but I knew that I wanted to try my hand at making the next one.  Check out my latest Pinterest finds — all DIY and all cost-effective (because we like it that way).

Enjoy!

(All images are linked to their original sources — Just Click!)

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A different take on a wreath -- a painted picture frame, with ornaments and a bow.

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Probably not the best choice for a front door, but I really like the method. Perhaps use Christmas cards instead?

OK, here’s where I derail… sort of.  So, I found those two lovely ideas (above) and then I remembered a concept I’d seen before:  paper cone wreaths.  I started searching for images so I could share with all of you — especially since I think this will be the kind of wreath I make — and somehow I ended up pinning nearly a dozen other paper cone wreaths.  Maybe this post should be called “Paper Cone Wreaths, Courtney’s New Obsession.”  I mean, seriously… it’s about to get a little silly.  So without further ado, my “sub post”:

Paper Cone Wreaths, Courtney’s New (slightly unhealthy) Obsession:

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One of the simpler versions. Still lovely.

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Another simple sheet music cone wreath.

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Similar to the one above, but with an angel figurine in the middle (That's the angel of the Lord, y'all!).

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Oooh... Now we're gettin' fancy! This was made with multiple cones at various angles (According to the website this came from, these are made from pages in an old book).

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Pretty girl... This wreath was made with pages from a romance novel (ooh la la!) and instead of rolling the pages into cones, she ruffled them by folding them in and attaching them to a styrofoam wreath base.

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Back to the cone idea, but this Etsy seller added colored paper around and inside some of the cones. Niiice... I think I've found the wreath I want to make :)

Yeah, that’s just some of them.  Like I said… I sort of got carried away.  Needless to say, there are MANY different types of wreaths out there… and many can be made  by YOU for next to nothing.

Once I get around to making mine (probably a version of the last one) I’ll definitely post pics here!

Grab a button if you were featured on this week’s round-up!

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Link URL:  https://thegingerpennypincher.wordpress.com

Other stuff you might like…

Things That (P)inspire Me

Twelve Weeks of Christmas (on going series)

DIY Holiday Ornaments and Tree Toppers

DIY Garlands

This picture of my dogs

Things that (P)inspire Me: DIY Christmas Garlands

***Find my previous posts regarding “Things that (P)inspire Me” here.

As previously mentioned, I’m pretty darn serious about my Christmas decoratin,’ and I definitely toe the line between tacky and tres chic.  After decorating the tree, I don’t stop… I keep going.  Next stop:  Garland Land!

I mean, seriously, doesn’t every door and window frame just scream for a garland at this time of year?

Well, along with my own Dollar Store, blinged-out garland…

… I’ve pinned a few more that I find particularly inspirational.  And, in the GPP tradition, these are all DIY (and cost-effective, too!).

(As always, you can click on the image for the link to the original source!)

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Origami boxes on a string -- would be great with holiday themed paper or colors. Even better on a string of lights (stick a bulb in the hole at the top of these boxes). And in case you think you're orgami-cally challenged like me, just try to make these. It's so easy, it only took me about two minutes to make one.

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Old book pages, painted with water colors and cut into leaf shapes. This same method could be revamped in many ways, and would also be nice as an ornament on an evergreen garland.

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Cork garland. Yeah, this would take A LOT of corks, but I think it's look nice with some space in between each cork, too (knots).

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Short pieces of ribbon tied onto a string of lights.

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Dixie cups, wrapped in pretty paper, with holes in the bottom. Looove.....

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Pieces of Paper glued together with a piece of yarn strung through. These look very time consuming, but hey, if you're watching a Christmas movie or something, why not? I also think these would be nice with just one disk of paper instead of the three dimensional look.

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Sheet music chain. This is actually being sold on Etsy, but this is all too easy to make: Just take sheet music and photo copy it (a few times) on off-white paper, cut into strips (hello paper cutter) and make the chain (and I know you know how to do that).

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This bunting was made from washi tape and string. Easy!

DIY Recycled Soda Can Holiday Garland

Obviously, this ones please me to no end, especially considering that these could be spray painted easily.

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This is obviously not a Christmas garland, but this would be easy to adjust and festive-ify.

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I have zero sewing skills, but I'm guessing this look could be achieved by sewing through the center of circles (or other shapes) of felt.

Hope these inspired you!  

Do you have any DIY garland ideas of your own?  Feel free to share in comment form below!

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Other stuff you might like…

Things that (P)inspire Me

Twelve Weeks of Christmas (ongoing series)

Thrifty Tree Decoratin’

DIY Christmas Onrnaments and Tree Toppers

Show-and-Tell: Thrifty Tree Decorating

Well, Josh and I wasted no time!  The day after Thanksgiving, we woke up early, made breakfast (this is an event itself), and decorated the tree.  And… you’re in luck (or maybe not) because I snapped many a photo in hopes of sharing with you!  And… I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t go through each element and item in the process and tell you where I found it or how much I paid for it… so here goes!

In case you didn’t notice, I skipped right over the post that tells how to get the best deal on a live Christmas tree.  This is because (cue sad music) I am allergic to most evergreens, i.e., Christmas trees (cue trumpet mute: “Womp womp wo-o-omp….”).  I know, it sounds sort of pathetic, but in reality I’ve never been able to have a live tree in any home I’ve ever lived in, so I’m not missing anything since I don’t know what I’m missing.

(However, Josh did grow up with live trees, and I know he misses them.  Sorry, Josh.)

So… in lieu of a live tree, I have a lovely little fake one that has stood by me for about four years now, through five different apartments!  Needless to say, because I live in a small apartment, the tree is a small one — about 4 feet tall.  Here it is, pre-fluffed:

Christmas tree out of box

Pre-fluffed

Yeah, not too exciting… yet.  However, after about 10 minutes of “fluffing” as I call it, it looks something like this:

naked christmas tree

A close-up of some of the branches. See? I think it does a respectable job at trying to look real!

I originally bought the tree in October of 2007 at a Goodwill store in Lancaster, PA.  Usually these are about $30-50 in a store, but I paid a mere $8.  I love Goodwill.

Oh, and by the way, I used the table that comes with my Honda CR-V (looks like this), but I think any card table or even a small end table would work fine.  Honda table = free.

To cover the less-than-lovely green Honda table, I took an orange Ikea curtain, draped it over the table, and hid the excess in between the wall and the table (shh… it’s a secret).  The Ikea curtain was originally $19.99 (for two panels), but since it was originally purchased for a previous un-Christmas-tree-related purpose, you know me… I call that free.

Next come the lights — and not a moment too soon, because I really think one of the saddest looking things is an unlit Christmas tree.  For our 4′ tree, we use two strands of 100-ct. white lights.  Both strands were purchased at CVS; they were originally $4.99, but with my (free) CVS rewards card, they were only $1.99 each.  Bam!  Now, this year we’re only using two strands of lights, but the plan for next year is to add another strand (I can hear Teresa Foster’s voice in my head saying “That’s still not enough!”  I know mama, I know).  However, here is the two strand tree, still lovely:

small christmas tree with lights

O Tannenbaum...

Slightly sparklier…

small christmas tree with lights

Tree skirt:  I’m a big fan of tree skirts, but since I usually do the Christmas gift thing early, this means I wrap them pretty early, too.  It’s nothing unusual for me to have all gifts wrapped and under the tree by December 5th.  This means the tree skirt will be hidden for most of the holiday season.  So, instead of actually having a “legit” tree skirt, I wrapped a metallic orange curtain around the base.  This curtain is one of two panels that I got at Goodwill (for my first apartment), originally for $5.

Next come the ornaments!

Here they are in the box after they’ve been unwrapped:

christmas ornaments

Ooh!  Pretty….

About half of these came from Goodwill and Dollar Tree over the years, about 1/4 of them came in a big multi-pack at Hobby Lobby with a 50% off coupon, and the rest were gifts.

You might be scratching your head now, saying “Where are the DIY ornaments?”  Um, yeah… about that…

I don’t have any!  I know, I know… weird for me, right?  It’s not that I don’t like DIY ornaments… I’ve just never tried my hand at them (and honestly, Goodwill has helped me out so much, I haven’t really been lacking in the ornament department).  However, I plan to change that this year!  But more on that in a future post

In the meantime, here is the tree, all blinged out:

orange and green christmas tree

Aaahhhh……..

As you can see, I’m not really into the red and green thing;  I prefer ORANGE and green! (And orange has red in it, if you want to get all color-wheel-nerd about it, so that’s close enough, right?)

Lastly, the tree topper!  This particular tree topper…

waterford ice skating tree topper

… came from… you guessed it… Goodwill.  And in case you’re sitting there doubting my thrift store prowess, Check. it. out:

Uh huh.  That’s right.  $6.97.  Even has the price sticker to prove it!  Also, maybe you noticed the brand of the tree topper?  It’s the Marquis line by Waterford.  As in Waterford crystal.  You know, those fancy folks who make the ball that drops in Times Square on New Year’s Eve?  And the chandeliers in Westminster Abbey?  And dozens of sports trophies? Yeah, they’re the big time.

(I even Googled my tree topper, just to see what it may have originally cost.  Here’s a link to an eBay seller’s store where they’re currently selling it for $40.99. I’ve found elsewhere from $35-50.)

And… because these things are important to Josh, I let him put on the tree topper:

Look at that face!?  That’s a happy husband.  And in case you were wondering if he was posed for this picture, the answer is no.  He really is that excited.

Ta da!

Now to the rest of the apartment… because when it comes to Christmas, I like to really toe that line between tacky and chic.  :)

Because I have a small tree, but a serious Goodwill/Dollar Tree/People-give-these-things-to-me problem, I have a surplus of ornaments.  And since the green and orange ornaments are the only ones to make the cut when it comes to decorating the tree (I made up this rule and I’m sticking to it), that leaves many more to… put into bowls!  This is obviously a more festive spin on putting balls into bowls (also one of my favorite, albeit often used, decor things).  Here are a few examples of how I’ve done this:

2 tiered fruit bowl with christmas ornaments

Here’s a close up of the bottom level:

Christmas ornaments in a bowl

I don’t like to arbitrarily place the ornaments in just any combination;  I like to group them by color families, or to coordinate with surrounding decor.  Since the walls in my apartment are blue, but I have a lot of orange and natural-colored accents, I like to acknowledge both the cool and warm colors (this is serious stuff).  Here’s a bowl of warmer toned Christmas ornaments:

bowl of christmas ornaments

Ahhh…. the juxtaposition of the cool and warm :)

Here’s a bird’s eye view:

bowl of christmas balls

Did I ask my camera to make the light in the room look like this? No. Did it do it anyway? Of course.

But wait!  There’s more…

colors...

Una mas…

In addition to bowls of balls (ha), I also like to place some of my favorite ornaments in other places, too.  Here’s a bride and groom ornament that my friend, Laura, gave me when I got married.  I’ve placed it next to a small frame that contains Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 (read by our friend, Joanna, at our wedding).

The bride has red hair... like someone else I know :)

Here’s an Eiffel Tower ornament that my friend, Spring gave me when I did the show Madeline’ Christmas (it’s set in Paris).

And lest we decorate for Christmas and forget a garland!  This one (below) was purchased at Dollar Tree, along with the ornaments attached to it.

Smack dab in the middle of the garland is an angel ornament given to me by my friend, Laura.  Let’s pretend it’s the Angel of the Lord.  Okay!

And here’s a wreath (it was a gift from my mother, who knows I’m not really into the red and green Christmas thing):

That’s all I have for now.  In the upcoming weeks, I plan to make a wreath for the front door — I’m thinking a festive version of a sheet music wreath?  A “Things that (P)inspire Me” post very soon!

So… let’s go through the list, just so I can say I told you:

Tree:  Goodwill, $8 (though I know you could find these on Craigslist as well)

Table:  Honda CR-V picnic table, came free with the car

Table cloth: a curtain panel reused from a previous apartment, free

Tree skirt:  a curtain panel reused from a previous apartment (originally from Goodwill), free

Christmas lights: 2 packs of 100 ct. lights from CVS, $1.99 X 2 = $3.98

Non-gift Christmas ornaments: Goodwill, 2 packs were $2.97 each (with about 15-20 ornaments in each pack), so a total of $5.94 for both

I got another pack of four orange class ornaments from Goodwill for $1.97

Orange and green glass ornaments (on the tree): came in a multi-pack for $9.99 from Hobby Lobby (after the 50% off coupon)

Marquis Waterford tree topper:  Goodwill, $6.97

Evergreen garland:  Dollar Tree, $1

Silver glitter ornaments:  Dollar Tree, ten pack, $1

Lime green glitter snowflakes:  Dollar Tree, $1

Jingle bell Wreath:  A gift (Thanks mom!), free

Bride-and-groom, angel, and Eiffel Tower glass ornaments: all gifts, free

Cute and enthusiastic husband:  Priceless  (but also free)

That’s it (so far)…  Hope these pictures and ideas inspired you, and  hopefully you feel encouraged to go check out your local thrift store or dollar store for more ideas and options.

Oh yeah… I almost forgot!  Dog stockings (from Dollar Tree)!!!

And if you’re still looking for inspiration, worry not!  This week is all about Christmas decor ideas, and what better place to turn to than Pinterest?  So I did!

Pandora and Puppies

As we close the week and officially dive into holiday shopping season (whether we like it or not), I wanted to drop a quick note and remind you (yet again) about Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, especially since I won’t be posting over the weekend, per usual.

To remind yourself — or read for the first time — here are the links:

Small Business Saturday

Cyber Monday

If you’re reading this, I assume you either didn’t do Black Friday shopping or you’re already home… or you’re standing in line and reading this on your smartphone (oh, I hope the last one isn’t true for your sake!).

For the first time in I don’t know when, I am actually not going to be shopping on Black Friday.  I know, weird?!  (And believe me, I do miss it!)

This year, for the first time, Josh and I have made a commitment to make, re-purpose, or thrift ALL of our Christmas gifts — mostly because we want to see if we can do it :)  Believe me, I will be posting the crazy out of these various projects after the recipients receive their gifts, but until then,  I have to keep that stuff a secret (especially since a lot of my gift recipients read this).

So… instead of the Black Friday shopping thing, Josh and I are spending the day decorating our Christmas tree and apartment!  Yeah, we’re those day-or-two-after-Thanksgiving people.  To aid our holiday spiritedness, we’re using a FREE thing that many of you all know and love:  Pandora Internet Radio.

Pandora is a free internet radio service that offers a variety of stations for your listening pleasure (and did I mention it’s free?).  Yes, there are some ads and every once in a while they’ll play a brief commercial, but these are few and far between, and totally worth the trouble (and by trouble I mean, not really trouble at all).  Go check it out!

Here’s their website: www.pandora.com

To save you some time, here’s a link to their Holiday stations:  http://www.pandora.com/#!/genres/holiday

Currently, they have twelve holiday stations, including: Christmas, Swingin’ Christmas, Children’s Christmas, Classical, Country, R&B/Pop Holiday, Rockin’ Christmas, Christian Contemporary, Indie, Navidad Latina, Electronic, and even a Hannukah station. Yeah, lots of options… and that’s just their holiday stations!   I give Swingin’ Christmas my highest recommendation… but that’s just me :)  There are even more options if you’re not yet in the holiday music spirit (but I’m in the holiday spirit some time around October 2nd, so ya know…)

All right, that’s all she wrote for today.  Off to tree decorating, hot chocolate sipping, and who knows? Maybe I’ll make some reindeer antlers for Nola and Margeaux…  wait, that actually sounds like a great idea :)

Speaking of my dogs, here’s a picture of them.  You know, because you haven’t seen enough of them before, right?!

Free dog bed

Nola and Margeaux snuggling up in their new dog bed that cost ZERO dollars. Also known as FREE. Yes! (Originally $200. Jealous?) Oh and by the way, it is bed bug free. We already thought about that.

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Twelve Weeks of Christmas, Week 4: Operation Christmas Child

***Check out the previous installments of this series, “The Twelve Weeks of Christmas” here!

Ok loyal GPP readers, put your Focus pants on.  Today is a very important post!  This installment of “The Twelve Weeks of Christmas” has nothing to do with giving gifts… to people you know, that is.  This one’s all about giving to others, specifically those less fortunate than us.

In a mere two weeks, hundreds of churches, schools, and rec centers all across America will be collecting shoeboxes full of gifts for impoverished children around the world in a project called:

I think the name is a little weird, but whatever.

This project was created by Samaritan’s Purse, whose mission statement is given below (website):

MISSION STATEMENT
“Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ.”

Regardless of your beliefs, it can’t be denied that Samaritan’s Purse does some serious good!  One of their many projects is Operation Christmas Child, which they have been doing for over 20 years.  Of course they accept in-kind donations, but I think it’s more fun to assemble a shoebox full of gifts with a child in mind.  These shoeboxes go directly to children in need (they’ve got the videos on their website to prove it), so for those who are less than excited about donating to charities, knowing that the majority of your donation goes to support the overhead of said charity, you can rest assured;  such is not the case with Operation Christmas Child (OCC).  In fact, the only expense you have to make that does not go directly to the child is a $7 “donation,” which in reality is used to pay for international shipping.  The individuals who work at the churches and other donation centers are usually volunteers, if not employees of the particular location, so you are in no way compensating them with your donation.  Warm feeling of do-goodery? Check!

Before you head out for a shopping spree that may, in some, way, help you relive your childhood — hold the phone.  There are some very important things to consider when packing a shoebox:

OCC_PackABox_Header

Image taken directly from samritanspurse.org

First, you want to decide what gender and group you are shopping for.  OCC breaks it down into six different categories:

  1. Girl, 2-4 years old
  2. Girl, 5-9 years old
  3. Girl, 10-14 years old
  4. Boy, 2-4 years old
  5. Boy, 5-9 years old
  6. Boy, 10-14 years old

After you have determined how many shoeboxes you want to fill and what age group and gender it will be for, get a shoebox (or shoeboxes)!  Of course, in the GPP upcycling tradition, I would encourage you to reuse a shoebox that you have lying around your home.  However, if you do not have one, a great solution is to go to the dollar store and get a shoe-box sized plastic container (with a lid of course).  These are great for the kids because they can be reused and will last longer than a cardboard shoebox.

Feel free to decorate the boxes, but remember that on the day you go to drop off your shoebox, the volunteers will inspect its contents –  make sure it can be opened before it’s shipped.

Shopping time!  Now… of course this blog is all about saving money with style, but there is no reason to be less than generous on occasions like this.  That said, I have learned that all children, regardless of their socio-economic status, race, religion, or nationality, love A LOT of the same things.  Not to gender stereotype, but girls love dolls and boys love balls (I should write a song about that).  All kids love coloring books, school supplies, sparkly things, notepads, candy, sunglasses, flashlights, stamps and ink pads, hats, stuffed animals, the list goes on.  Adults often lose their sense of imagination as they get older, but kids really do appreciate the simplest things, regardless of their cost (as mentioned previously here).

Perhaps more importantly, all kids regardless of… all those things I mentioned above… all NEED some of the same things, too: soap, washcloths, toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, and other hygiene items.  While most kids in the U.S. take these things for granted, many kids in “developing” or “third world” countries request these items above all others.  To make a great shoebox, strike a balance between items that are necessities and items that are great, fun gifts!

Of course, there are some items to avoid, and they are listed on the OCC website.  I’ll save you the time and paste them here:

Used or damaged items

war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures (many of these kids live in war-torn countries)

chocolate or food (hard candy is OK; I think OCC is concerned about melting)

liquids or lotions (leaking is the concern here, but bar soap and toothpaste are perfectly fine)

 medications or vitamins

breakable items such as snowglobes or glass containers

aerosol cans

In addition to OCC’S list, I’d like to add anything that requires batteries.  Unless you can send a lifetime supply (probably won’t fit in a shoebox), and considering that most recipients of these shoeboxes don’t have easy access to these things – it just seems a bit unfair to me.

OCC FAQ 2

Taken directly from samaritanspurse.org

As I mentioned, I think it’s important to be as generous as possible in situations like this, but sometimes money is tight.  Every year, when Josh and I go shopping for our shoeboxes, we like to go to Dollar Tree first.  They always have great toys, school supplies, and toiletry items for… ya know… a dollar.  Of course they don’t carry a lot of name brands like Barbie, but who cares??

Then, we’ll usually follow up with a trip to Wal-Mart or Target to find anything else that we really wanted to get (and of course, handmade items are great, so long as it will be clear to the child what the item actually is).

I know the OCC list of no-no items says nothing “used,” but in my opinion, this doesn’t matter as long as the items are clean and look new.  Therefore, I usually will go to a thrift store and see what I can find in “like new” condition.  For girls, I like to get a little bag and fill it with girly things like barrettes, jewelry, headbands, et al (I don’t get scrunchies or hair ties because many of these children are malnourished and quite frankly, can’t grow their hair to any measurable length).  Thrift stores are great places to find these bags, because women who get those free cosmetic bags – as part of a promotion from Clinique or Estee Lauder (or where ever) – often donate these to thrift stores.  I fill these up, stick them in the shoebox, and it’s like 2 gifts in 1!

After you have filled up your box(es), you are encouraged to send a picture of yourself and a note to the recipient.  Then, print off the necessary label(s), affix it to your box, wrap a rubber band around the box, and take it to the drop-off location on the specified dates.

This year (2011), the National Collection Week is November 14-21.  You can look on their website for drop-off locations in your area, but keep in mind: even though the dates are 14-21, different locations do different things.  I had an almost-horror story last year when I went to drop off my shoeboxes:  The church that was my closest location actually stopped accepting shoeboxes after 1:00, however I didn’t know this (I thought they were open until 5:00).  Fortunately, when I got there at 1:15, they were still willing to accept my shoeboxes. (Huge sigh of relief!)

The moral of the story is CALL AHEAD to see when they are accepting shoeboxes; don’t just assume it’s the same hours or even the same days as all other locations.

OCC Processing 1

Taken directly from samaritanspurse.org

Hopefully I’ve convinced you that Operation Christmas Childs is a great idea, not only because it’s an easy and thrifty way to make a big impact, but… it’s kinda fun!  Again, here’s their website for more info:  Operation Christmas Child

 

So… get to work!  You only have two weeks!!!  Of course, I’d love pics of your shoeboxes filled with all the goodies, so  pass those on to me: thegingerpennypincher@gmail.com and I’ll post them here.  I’ll be sure to post mine in a couple of weeks as well!

You can leave comments below:

Do you plan on participating in OCC this year (or have you in years past)?

Do you know of any other charities or projects that are GPP friendly, specifically small price tag, big impact?

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Early Christmas Shopping (Twelve Weeks of Christmas Preview)

Have you started your holiday shopping yet?

Today is September 26th, which means we are three months away from Christmas!   This may seem like a light year away, especially when you break it down:  that’s 13 weeks or 91 days away; that’s Halloween and then Thanksgiving; that’s the ENTIRE season of Fall; that’s one semester or two quarters of school.  It seems so far away…

However, if you are like me, you are already brainstorming about Christmas gifts, and not for what I want — though I have already set my sights on one thing in particular in case Santa is reading this — but rather what I want to give to other people, i.e., loved ones, charitable causes, et al.

Planning early helps me to avoid the last minute Christmas shopping trips (super stressful!) and rather, stretch out the gift acquisition over the course of 13 weeks.  I say gift acquisition all italicized-like because I do not just buy gifts — I also try to MAKE THEM. And not just things like the macaroni angel ornament you made in elementary school, though those were undoubtedly charming in their time.  Gifts that make the recipient go “You made this?  Really??”

So before the gift acquisition phase can commence (that sounds so sci-fi/fantasy!), here are some tips and tricks to help you find/make the best gifts without incurring ANY additional credit card debt — No really!

In this picture I was probably thinking about making lists, thus the happy expression.

  1.         List all your family to whom you will actually be giving gifts.  This list will typically include mom(s), dad(s), your spouse/life partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, children, in-laws, maybe grandparents?  If your extended family is like my extended family, we usually draw names and the name you get is the person to whom you give a gift, with a monetary limit of usually $35-50.  This may seem weird but really turns out to be a lot more fun in the long run (See!  I come from a long line of penny pinchers!)
  2.        List all of your friends to whom you will be giving gifts.
  3.        List all of your acquaintances to whom you will be giving gifts.  This may have caused some of you to do a double-take, but think about it: Do you have a relationship with any particular person in your life that provides you a consistent service?  Examples could include: your mail man/woman, your exterminator (if you own a house and actually have conversations with your exterminator, like my mother), your hairdresser/barber, your children’s dance/karate/music/whatever-kids-are-doing-nowadays instructors and classroom teachers, and potentially more.  Because I live in an apartment and do not have children, I don’t have a lot of relationships, if any at all, with a lot of the typical “service providers.”  If you do, you should definitely considering giving them a little something.  This does not have to be anything big, but considering most of these people are grossly underpaid – and I speak as a dance instructor and the daughter of a teacher – it’s definitely a nice gesture that is ALWAYS appreciated.  More on this in a future blog.
  4.        After you have made your three lists, go through each name and figure out what you might want to give them.  You do not have to decide it all in one sitting, but it’s good to have a general idea, especially for members of your immediate family and closest friends, as these people will probably get the biggest gifts and therefore the most gift acquisition attention (that’s right, I brought it back).  Don’t necessarily limit yourself by budget, because there is almost always a way to find what you are looking for in your price range (though if are actor-style poor, you probably can’t get everyone in your immediate family a 42” flat screen TV, but I feel like that goes without saying). 
  5.        From this list of gift ideas, figure out which of these things you could realistically make.  Before you pooh-pooh the possibility of making something, Google it.  The affordable options to hand-making – without need of expensive tools– might surprise you, especially if you keep reading this blog for the next 12 weeks. (Hint.)
  6.       From this list of gift ideas, figure out which of these things you couldn’t possibly make, e.g., a computer (the exceptions are rare enough that they are not worth mentioning).
  7.        Plan when to purchase/make these items. 

In the case of electronics, I think it is wisest to wait until Black Friday week.  I say the week and not just the day because stores will often have similar sales during Thanksgiving week and not just the following day.  However, if you know you are not going to feel up to braving Black Friday, your best bet for good deals on electronics would be online shopping.  (Future blog  comin’ at ‘cha!)

In the case of everything else, unless it is a baked good (which always make good gifts for extended family and people on your “acquaintances” list), you can buy these things in advance, which leads me to number

8.       Buy at least ONE ITEM A WEEK from now until Christmas.  This is the most valuable and time tested advice I can offer.  I am never broke by the time I get to Christmas, I have never accrued (additional) credit card debt, and I have never had the excuse of not having enough money to get my loved ones what I want.  Christmas comes on the same day every year; it is not a ninja holiday like Easter, i.e., it doesn’t sneak up on you in the dead of night and say “Here I am!”  (“What?  But it’s like February, right?”).

9.       Save a few items to buy for the week of Christmas.  This is more of a girly, sentimental thing and not really necessary, but I really love going Christmas shopping when it is actually Christmas time!  I love the decorations, the music, the chill in the air, ya know.  And because I have paced myself, Christmas shopping is neither stressful nor depressing, and I don’t have to wander aimlessly, trying to get ideas because I already know what I want (and I’ve already gotten most of what I wanted previously).

10.   If you have items that you plan to make (and I really hope you do because these are the best!) start making those sooner rather than later.  When I make things for people, I tend to not subscribe to this philosophy as much as I should, and I nearly always regret it.  Lesson learned, don’t procrastinate!

11.   Refer to #8.  No really.  Best advice ever and I just gave it to you for free (and that’s a good deal).

(Most bloggers will only give you a list of ten tips/tricks, but I just blew your face off with eleven.  Right?!)

For those still resisting handmade gifts, I hear your hesitation and I understand — I used to feel the same way!  However, over the course of the next twelve weeks, I hope to change your mind with my first ever series (“Wait, she can’t do a series yet!  She just started this blog?!?!  Who does she think she is?  Miss Interwebs?!”)   . . . AND the series will be entitled:

“The Twelve Weeks of Christmas”   (because what else was I gonna call it?)

Each week I will offer one tutorial on a handmade gift (yippee!) as well as tips/tricks for getting good deals, online shopping, etc.

For my loyal tens of subscribers — in 8 different states and 3 different countries – wha??– DON’T WORRY.  This will not be like when your local department store puts their Christmas decorations on sale in July, because that’s just wrong; this will not be a non-stop Christmas fest and the series won’t be more than one post a week so . . . ya know . . . relax.

And if you’re Jewish and don’t do the Christmas thing, just insert the word Channukah every time you read the word Christmas, and then multiply times eight (haha).

Stay tuned and SUBSCRIBE! —>